Racism and Cross-racial Love
We all know that being racist is bad. Dating and marriage, however, is under a separate magisterium. There’s no accounting for taste, so no one is critiqued for not dating outside of their own race, or even specifically targeting particular races one would be unwilling to date barring extraordinary circumstances (e.g. Halle Berry).
I’ve never seen this right challenged until reading Breeze Harper:
If Black people aren’t good enough to marry their children, then they simply aren’t good enough, period. And the implications of this really troubled my 21 year old mind. I remember thinking:
If we’re not good enough to marry, then I wonder how [white] mothers think about us in other contexts. If they had to be on a jury and determine if a Black person on trial were guilty or not, would they automatically think they aren’t as deserving as being considered as innocent as white peers in their social network? If these women worked at a bank and a black person came in for a home loan, would they feel like they were less likely to deserve it than a white person with the same economic background? If they were on a college admissions committee and saw that the applicant had marked ‘African-American’ as their racial identity, would they not weigh his achievements the same way they’d weigh a white applicant’s?
My view isn’t as dour as Ms. Harper’s. There are probably plenty of people who would never consider dating a black person but were happy to vote for one. People are able to function just fine holding conflicting beliefs. I would be unsurprised to find an impeccably objective loan officer who would nevertheless be disturbed to find her daughter dating a black man and be totally ignorant of any inconsistency. In fact, her ability to tolerate inconsistency might be a good thing, because she might sooner deny black people loans than let them at her daughter.
On the other hand, the separate-magisteria idea has a dark history, and it is one of continual retreat in the interests of self-preservation. When the slaves were freed, it was still acceptable to think that they were still nowhere near equal. Those were protected, personal beliefs that good people were entitled to have and lay in a separate magisterium.
But then people thought that blacks should still be given some sort of opportunity, even if it was unlikely they would be able to take advantage of it, so separate facilities were created. But if you didn’t want your kid’s school or your business to have anything to do with black people, that was a protected, personal belief, and our democracy stood there to protect you.
And then there was integration, but it was still understandable that while your business ought to serve black people, you didn’t necessarily have to hire them for sensitive positions in your company.
And now there’s just dating. You can’t get mad about having a black doctor, but no one will fault you for not dating black men.
Eventually, this ground too will be given, but even then some narrower patch will remain.
Photo credit: mattradickal of Flickr